We can now prefix the article below with the news that, from 6th April 2017, the starting salary for Cambridge postdocs is rising one scale point from £29,301 to £30,175, and from 1st October 2017 it will rise a further scale point to £31,076 and parity with Oxford. (The October figure will be modified by the result of this year’s annual inflation-based pay negotiations.)
So we have achieved a 6% increase in the starting salary of postdocs at Cambridge!
Whilst the University’s payscale is tied to a nationally-negotiated “spine”, there is no national agreement on where different roles map onto that scale. This leads to postdocs being paid different amounts at different Universities. (There is also no national agreement on precisely what a postdoc is, nor how many different levels of postdoc there might be, which complicates comparisons slightly.)
However, even after excluding London institutions, which are complicated due to the presence of “London weighting”, it becomes clear that starting salaries for postdocs in Cambridge are amongst the lowest in the country, despite living costs here being amongst the highest.
The Cambridge UCU prepared a paper on this subject in Summer 2016 and presented it at a PWG, in front of the Director of HR and the PVC for Institutional Affairs, where it received a sympathetic reception. We are continuing to press this matter, for we were looking for more than just sympathy.
At the time this paper was written (before the 1.1% pay increase of August 2016), the starting salary for postdocs in Cambridge was £28,982. In Oxford, York, Manchester and Dundee it appeared to be £30,738. In Bath, Cardiff, Durham and Edinburgh it appeared to be £31,656.
The result seems unfair on postdocs, and unfair on PIs trying to recruit and retain the best postdocs. Furthermore, given that most postdocs are full-funded on research grants from bodies which are prepared to pay the higher rates at other Universities, the cost to Cambridge University of being more generous would be approximately zero.